Nantes city center is composed of about a quarter million people, with almost 3/4 of a million people inhabiting the metropolitan area of Nantes. Nantes is the 6th largest city in France, and is considered one of the most desirable places to live in France, especially for young professionals who enjoy the arts and don’t want to live in Paris. For the traveler, this means the nightlife in Nantes is quite lively.
There is an airport, Nantes Atlantique Airport. A shuttle connects the airport with the city center and Sud railway station, making the trip in about half an hour. There are a variety of hotels near the train station, backed by pleasant botanical gardens. Nantes has the largest and one of the longest-running tram systems in France.
The region’s vineyards produce wines such as Muscadet and Gros Plant, both excellent with fish and seafood. Try oysters with the local Muscadet. Fromage du curé nantais is a cows milk cheese developed by a priest near Nantes, and is also excellent with Muscadet.
Near the Passage Pommeraye and the Place Royale is the Maison des Vins de Loire, the Loire Valley Wine Center, located in the former “wine port” of Nantes, where you can buy the local wines of the Loire Valley. The Nantes Card gives you a 10% discount.
Seafood, from the sea or from the Loire (pike, perch, and eels) is a local specialty, often swimming in beure blanc, a regional treatment for fish. Also try a gâteau nantais, a cake that’s a mixture of sugar, almonds, butter, and antilles rum. A restaurant recommended highly is Brasserie La Cigale, place Graslin (face à l’Opéra) in Nantes.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the one star Hotel de la Gare near the train station and botanical gardens of Nantes. While the hotel isn’t really special, the new owners, Mr. and Mrs. Archer, are extremely dialed in to the history and attractions of Nantes, and were extraordinarily helpful to getting us to the main attractions.
Nantes has an oceanic climate, which means rain throughout the year but very moderate summer temperatures, so if you’re looking for a vacation spot you probably won’t swealter in, Nantes might just be the place. For historic weather and climate charts, plus a map and other tourism information, see Nantes Travel Weather.
Nantes Cathedral Saints Peter and Paul - Begun in 1434, the Gothic cathedral wasn’t finished until the end of the 19th century. After a 1972 fire the interior was restored. Inside the cathedral’s 11th century crypt is a museum of religions. Château des ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany) – Nantes’ castle has recently undergone restoration, and is the second oldest building in Nantes after the Cathedral. The inner courtyard is built in the Renaissance style with blistering white tufa. The Nantes History Museum is inside. Nearby is the place du Commerce, a largely pedestrian area that offers a good array of restaurants. Le Petit Bacchus, in the shadow of the Chateau. Passage Pommeraye - a passage between two streets with different elevations, the rue Santeuil and rue de la Fosse, begun in 1840, now containing interesting shops and cafes. The Museum and the native house of Jules Verne - If you like the writing of Nantes own Jules Verne, don’t miss the museum with multimedia exhibits on the Butte Saint-Anne, 3, Rue de l’Hermitage in Nantes. Jardin des plantes de Nantes is the botanical garden. It’s a tranquil spot not so far from the train station. Musée des Beaux-arts - The highly celebrated fine arts museum is built around an airy courtyard and features works ranging from the Italian Primitives to contemporary artists. La Tour LU (LU Tower) – a picturesque tower built in 1905 and restored in 1998 near the entrance of a former Lefevre-Utile (LU) biscuit factory. You can visit inside to see a panoramic view of Nantes.